Regardless of where or how you grow up, high school years can be some of the toughest of your life. However, AXE is teaming up with incredible folks to ensure that the world changes in order to meet young men wherever they’re at, and build on their masculinity in a healthy way.
On Wednesday, the brand’s Find Your Magic Initiative launched “Senior Orientation,” a customized curriculum that will encourage high school seniors to foster an environment of inclusive masculinity. Masculinity expert, poet and author Carlos Andrés Gómez will be teaming up with award-winning musician and activist, John Legend, in order to put “Senior Orientation” into action at Centennial High School in Columbus, Oh.
According to a recent study by Promundo, 51% of men agreed that society as a whole tells them that “men should use violence to get respect, if necessary.”Gómez told CASSIUS that there’s a direct connection between toxic masculinity in the world and the well being of all people.
“There’s a lot of stereotypes for men to be in control, unemotional and violent,” he said. “That has very obvious connections to harming women and girls. You can’t be a full human being if you can’t be emotional, gentle and creative.”
The two appeared on a panel Wednesday, and discussed the effects of masculine stereotypes with YouTuber and LGBTQ+ advocate Hunter Kulgkist and 15-year-old Bronx high school student Solomon Mussing.
Mussing, who shared his experience with bullying due to his Instagram account, applauded Legend for his commercial with AXE where he dressed in dapper attire and sang love songs.
“Even Bronx Black boys were wearing bowties because you made it an okay thing to do,” said Mussing. “When older men [who are role models] make it okay to be their authentic selves, operating outside the concept of gender, other people follow suit. It gives kids like me who use silence as a defense mechanism the permission to be ourselves … we’re masculine enough for anyone.”
Legend shared that his experiences with masculinity has always been intertwined with music, with the stage as an arena that gave him permission to be himself. He talked about how JAY Z helped him navigate his masculinity with 4:44 and being open about his issues with his wife and going to therapy.
“It makes me realize the power that we have as entertainers and people who create content that gives people permission to envision other realities and ways of behaving,” Legend responded. “We as artists have a responsibility to help others figure out who they are as we figure [that out for ourselves].”